Dury Canadian Memorial

Dury Canadian Memorial

At Dury Mill, 16 kilometres southeast of Arras, the Dury Canadian Memorial preserves in stone the memory of hard-fought actions to break the Drocourt-Qué ant Line. A beautifully landscaped park, complete with stately maples, surrounds the solid block of granite that tells the story:

THE CANADIAN CORPS 100,000 STRONG ATTACKED AT ARRAS ON AUGUST 26TH 1918, STORMED SUCCESSIVE GERMAN LINES AND HERE ON SEPT. 2ND BROKE AND TURNED THE MAIN GERMAN POSITION ON THE WESTERN FRONT AND REACHED THE CANAL DU NORD

The Second Battle of Arras, 1918

After the Allied success in the Battle of Amiens, August 8-11, a renewal of the offensive on an extended front brought the Canadian Corps again into action, this time with the British First Army in the Arras sector. Sir Douglas Haig directed the First Army to strike eastward from Arras, and the Canadian Corps once again became the spearhead of the attack. The Corps would assault astride the Arras-Cambrai road, with the canalized River Scarpe forming its left-hand boundary. The assignment given the Corps Commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, was both important and difficult. A series of formidable defence positions barred the Canadian path, and in fortifying these the Germans had made full use of the deeply cut valleys and intervening ridges that crossed the battle area. Strongest of all, about nine miles east of Arras, was the Drocourt-Quéant (or D-Q) Line. Extending northward as a switch-line from the main Hindenburg position, this formidable deep system of trenches, fortified with concrete shelters and thick belts of wire, had been constructed by the Germans to contain any Allied advance into the Douai plain.

The Canadians struck before dawn on August 26, with the 2nd Division on the right, south of the Cambrai road; the 3rd Division between the road and the Scarpe and on the left, north of the river, the 51st Highland Division, temporarily under Currie's command. Aided by a powerful artillery and machine-gun barrage, the attack made good progress. Early in the day, the 3rd Division took Monchy in a skilfully executed encircling attack. On the right, the 2nd Division captured the villages of Guémappe and Wancourt during the afternoon. By nightfall the Canadian Corps was holding a line 914 metres east of Monchy, having repulsed several counter-attacks launched by the enemy in a determined attempt to regain the battered town.

Orders issued by General Currie for the 27th were to break through the strong Fresnes-Rouvroy Line - an advance of eight kilometres. It took two more days of hard fighting before the strong defence system was pierced near Boiry-Notre-Dame; and when the Battle of the Scarpe ended on August 30, resolute enemy garrisons were still clinging stubbornly to sections of the Fresnes-Rouvroy Line.

In the first three days of the battle the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions had advanced more than eight kilometres over difficult, broken country beset with a maze of stoutly held trenches, and had captured 3,300 prisoners and a large number of guns. One of the 6,000 casual-ties in the two divisions was Major Georges Vanier, a future Governor General of Canada, who lost his right leg while commanding the 22nd Battalion near Chérisy.

After a brief respite Currie launched the assault of the Drocourt-Quéant Line on September 2. As day was breaking, armour and infantry began advancing be-hind a strong barrage to storm the enemy's main defensive line in the west. South of the Cambrai road battalions of the 1st Division swept forward as their tanks knocked out enemy posts and flattened wire that had survived the preliminary gunfire. By 7:30 a.m. one battalion had overrun the main trenches and was into the German support line, as a fresh battalion passed through to seize the village of Cagnicourt. Suffering crippling casualties, the Canadians gained their objective in the Buissy Switch before mid-night.

In the centre the 4th Canadian Division, which had taken over much of the 4th British Division's front, had been fighting its own hard battle. Between Dury and the main road the front trenches of the D-Q line were sited along the forward slope of the long low hill of Mont Dury. The attacking infantry had, therefore, to advance up an open incline swept by the enemy's machine-guns. At the crest they came under deadly fire from more machine-guns, as well as from shelling by the German field batteries in the rear. In spite of mounting casualties the Canadian battalions, aided greatly by tanks, reached the crest by mid-morning and drove the enemy from a sunken road linking Dury with the highway. With the capture of Dury village in vicious fighting, the 4th Canadian Division had gained its first objective. During the night the enemy fell back, and on September 3 the Canadian Corps, meeting no resistance, advanced some four miles to take up positions over-looking the next obstacle-the Canal du Nord.

In the bitter fighting of September 2, seven Victoria Crosses were won by Canadians. The enemy's enforced withdrawal had taken place on a wide front - with no fewer than four German armies retiring into the Hindenburg Line, and two more falling back in the north. Such was the measure of the Canadian achievement in smashing defences of the Drocourt-Quéant position. In the first four days of September the Canadian Corps captured more than 6,000 unwounded prisoners, and inflicted heavy German casualties. Its own losses numbered 5,600.

Directions

Aerial view of Dury Canadian Memorial

The Dury Canadian Memorial is about 15 kms west of Cambrai, 16 kms east of Arras, 60 kms south of Lille and 175 kms north of Paris. You can reach Cambrai by train or by bus and from there take a taxi to the Memorial. The trip to the Memorial is approximately €60 return. You can also reach Arras by train or by bus and from there take a taxi to the Memorial. The trip to the Memorial is approximately €60 return. You can rent a bike at the train station; which costs approximately €5 per day, €11 per week and €17 per month.

Note: The cost of a taxi is based on return trips without a waiting period. If you want the taxi to wait for you while you visit the site you will be charged €17.90 per hour. Bus connections are difficult and there are not many of them in the rural areas of the department of Pas-de-Calais.

If you are travelling by car, please follow the directions below:

Note: Speed limits in France are 50 km/h in city limits and residential areas (generally unmarked), usually 90 km/h on secondary roads (but it may vary in areas) and 130 km/h on the motorway. Motorists should be aware of the priority from the right rule.

From Paris or Charles de Gaulle Airport take the A1 motorway, direction Lille. Continue on this road for approximately 160 kms. Take exit 15 for the D939 towards Cambrai. Once on the Arras / Cambrai road, drive for about 16 kms and you will see the Dury Canadian Memorial on your left. It should take you approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours to reach the Memorial.

From Arras take the D939 towards Cambrai. Continue on this road for approximately 15 kms and you will see the Dury Canadian Memorial on your left. It should take you approximately 20 minutes to reach the Memorial.

From Cambrai take the D939 towards Arras. Continue on this road for approximately 15 kms and you will see the Dury Canadian Memorial on your right. It should take you approximately 15 to 20 minutes to reach the Memorial.

From Calais take the A26 and continue on this road for approximately 130 kms. Take the A1, direction Paris and continue on this road for approximately 5 kms. Take exit 15, direction Cambrai, and drive on this road for approximately 10 kms. You will see the Dury Canadian Memorial on your left. It should take you approximately 1½ to 2 hours to reach the Memorial.

From Lille take the A1 motorway, direction Paris. Continue on this road for approximately 45 kms. Take the D939 towards Cambrai. Once on the Arras / Cambrai road, drive for about 16 kms and you will see the Dury Canadian Memorial on your left. It should take you approximately 50 minutes to 1 hour to reach the Memorial.

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